MINI Countryman SUV review
"The MINI Countryman is a fun and stylish family car that’s also practical and economical"
- Fashionable MINI image
- Economical engines
- Enjoyable to drive
- Expensive optional extras
- Looks a little ungainly
- No diesel engine
The MINI Countryman ruffled a few feathers when it first launched, as it’s the largest model in the range and therefore the biggest departure from the spirit of the original Mini. Yet this small SUV went on to be a sales success and it’s now an established member of the MINI lineup. There are good reasons to like the Countryman; it’s a great family car.
The Countryman might be the largest MINI but it’s still a small SUV, and rivals include the Audi Q2 and BMW X1. You could also consider it alongside more mainstream models such as the Nissan Qashqai - and there’s also a plug-in hybrid version that rivals the Ford Kuga PHEV, Toyota C-HR and Kia Niro.
MINI’s SUV looks more aggressive than the smaller MINI hatch, thanks to a more prominent grille and the design of the bumpers. You might love or hate the way the car looks, but it’s distinctive and carries the MINI identity thanks to the headlights and rounded bodywork. It’s an upmarket car when you step inside as well, with high-quality materials and plenty of technology.
It’s also upmarket in terms of price, as although the MINI’s price looks competitive, you need to consider the cost of options. If you add all the optional extras to match something like a BMW X1 you’ll find the prices are similar, so it’s worth knowing which bits of tech you want and only adding those to get the best deal.
The Countryman is still a MINI and it retains a sense of fun found in all MINI cars. It’s enjoyable to drive no matter which model you go for, from the entry-level model right up to the powerful and fast John Cooper Works version. Many of the engines are economical as well as smooth and easy to drive.
Countryman buyers have a broad choice of engines to choose from. The least expensive is a 134bhp three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol that manages around 42.2mpg without feeling slow. The Cooper S will please those who want a little more power; its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produces 176bhp.
The plug-in hybrid MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, which we've reviewed separately, combines the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine with an electric motor, producing a total of 217bhp and is faster than the Cooper S, yet claims official economy of 156.9mpg. The best news is that it doesn’t compromise the Countryman’s nimble nature. It's also in the lowest Benefit-in-Kind banding so will appeal to company-car users, though it’s expensive to buy.
So, even if the looks and price don’t appeal to all, there’s little doubt that the engines have what it takes and build quality is excellent too. Thanks to its growth spurt, it’s a lot more family-friendly than the previous model and standard equipment has become more generous and more reflective of what buyers need, with features like sat nav now standard across the range. As well as the entry-level Classic trim level, there's the racy Sport and luxurious Exclusive to choose from, each of which are available with different engine options.
Every MINI has its following and every Countryman appeals to different tastes. The practical entry-level Cooper has the urban school-run covered, the plug-in hybrid will suit motorway-dwelling business drivers and the John Cooper Works delivers strong performance. It’s not cheap – and prices can rise still further once a few choice options have been ticked – but a five-star Euro NCAP rating shows that MINI hasn’t skimped on safety. This makes it a sensible car to buy and a safe one in which to put your family.